Narrating Post/Communism: Colonial Discourse and Europe's Borderline Civilization (BASEES/Routledge Series on Russian and East European Studies)
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The transition of communist Eastern Europe to capitalist democracy post-1989 and in the aftermath of the Yugoslav wars has focused much scholarly attention - in history, political science and literature - on the fostering of new identities across Eastern European countries in the absence of the old communist social and ideological frameworks. This book examines an important, but hitherto largely neglected, part of this story: the ways in which the West has defined its own identity and ideals via the demonization of communist regimes and Eastern European cultures as a totalitarian, barbarian and Orientalist "other". It describes how old Orientalist prejudices resurfaced during the Cold War period, and argues that the establishment of this discourse helped to justify transitions of Eastern European societies to market capitalism and liberal democracy, suppressing Eastern Europe’s communist histories and legacies, whilst perpetuating its dependence on the West as a source of its own sense of identity. It argues that this process of Orientalization was reinforced by the literary narratives of Eastern European and Russian anti-communist dissidents and exiles, including Vladimir Nabokov, Czeslaw Milosz and Milan Kundera, in their attempts to present themselves as native, Eastern European experts and also emancipate themselves – and their homelands – as civilized, enlightened and Westernized. It goes on to suggest that the greatest potential for recognizing and overcoming this self-Orientalization lies in post-communist literary and visual narratives, with their themes of disappointment in the social, economic, or political changes brought on by the transitions, challenge of the unequal discursive power in East-West dialogues where the East is positioned as a disciple or a mimic of the West, and the various guises of nostalgia for communism.
is rarely a celebration of cultural hybridity or cultural nativism as a radical option, but, possibly, there is a movement to something (an undefined something) beyond. What is certain is that multicultural racism is haunted in these narratives by the unstated hierarchies of older racism, perhaps paralleling the way in which we can glean, behind a de-centered Imperial logic, the older, Wallersteinian (1979) core–periphery divisions. The core today is not only the United States and its explicit
otherwise bland, repetitive discourse, in a similar way to that in which Nabokov’s ‘‘unique’’ Russian experience introduces ‘‘difference’’ to his Western upbringing and his affinities with liberal democracy. We can see this at work in the various critical reactions to Nabokov’s monumental translation and commentary on Eugene Onegin, which bears the aura of transgressive, controversial literary criticism as it includes many non-traditional elements: Nabokov’s word coinages in an attempt to
narcissism, cruelty, and self-righteousness when he finds the ‘‘morocco-bound album in Vladimir Nabokov’s Pale Fire 43 which the judge had lovingly pasted all the life histories and pictures of people he had sent to prison or condemned to death’’ (Nabokov 1989a: 83). Just as Kinbote won’t play by the rules of academic discourse, he won’t comply with Goldsworth’s obsessive ‘‘recommendations, explanations, injunctions and supplementary lists’’ telling him how to properly take care of the house
being-ethnic parallels my concept of testimony, and she similarly argues that this confession is interpellated, in an Althusserian sense, in the dominant political narratives. But I would like to push Chow’s concept further, as in this case the testimony is less about one being-ethnic than about pointing accusatory fingers at those responsible for making one ethnic when one had all the conditions necessary to become a neutral Westerner. In this particular case of ‘‘nesting Orientalisms,’’ to
Europe clips. This is especially significant in terms of the apocalyptic approximation in Pelevin’s Russia of what Guy Debord (1995) calls the ‘‘society of the spectacle’’ and what the Situationists set out to challenge: post-Soviet Russia reduces all human interaction to ‘‘anal’’ and ‘‘oral’’ ‘‘wow’’ impulses, corresponding to the consumption or ingestion of money with the purpose of acquiring a desirable, advertised image and ‘‘wow-ing’’ another human being, whom Debord calls ‘‘Homo